Air Force struck by Northrop's Litening

Northrop Grumman Corp. has received an $18 million contract from the Air Force Materiel Command to provide upgraded data links that can be incorporated in an onboard advanced targeting system called Litening.

The new data link, known as Plug and Play II, is the first to feature multiple frequencies while remaining compatible with the Rover portable receiving station used by both U.S. and coalition ground forces. In addition, Plug and Play II has a new high-capacity digital recording system for video and metadata collected during a mission. It can also include two-way data transfer using an onboard server, the company said.

Under terms of the contract, Northrop Grumman's Defensive Systems Division will deliver more than 200 of the new data links, which will be installed on a variety of aircraft with the Litening system between September 2008 and January 2010.

Northrop Grumman's Litening targeting and navigation pods provide 24-hour precision strike and navigation capabilities. They enable fighter aircraft to detect and identify ground targets, even at night or in adverse weather, for highly accurate delivery of conventional or precision-guided weapons.

Litening was the first targeting pod to incorporate a video downlink, said Mike Lennon, Northrop Grumman's vice president of targeting and surveillance programs in the division. Plug and Play II features more flexible communication paths, improved onboard storage capacity and the ability to support net-centric operations, he said.

To date, U.S. forces and allied nations have ordered almost 500 Litening advanced targeting pods. Together, all versions of the pod have amassed more than 750,000 flight hours, and more than half of those came under deployed and combat conditions, according to the company.

Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles ranks No. 3 on Washington Technology's 2007 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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